New updates in IOT temperature sensors means even more reliability, better ranges, security and ability to update firmware via the internet. Here’s the tech.
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TEMPERATURE CONTROL RULES Why is Temperature Control important?
Temperature control is important because harmful bacteria are a hazard present in many of the foods handled in catering businesses.
They also tend to multiply rapidly at temperatures above 5c, the higher temperature and longer the time exposed to the temperature the faster the bacteria growth . As bacteria are invisible to the naked eye and cannot be physically removed from food, all we can do is control their numbers.
There are two main ways in which temperature can be used to achieve this:
We can destroy harmful bacteria, or reduce their numbers, by cooking or reheating and
We can control their growth by keeping food hot or cold.
Lets look at cold.
The following practices are recommended to keep food safe. Your refrigerator should operate at an average of 5°C or below. These temperatures would then be the Critical Limits for Refrigerated Storage. Refrigeration of food temperature of 5°C or below is effective in controlling the quick multiplication of most bacteria in perishable food. It is recommended practice to operate refrigerators and chills at 5°C or below. Freezing of food should be done at -18c.
Time and temperature.
Just because food storage exceeds 5c for a short period of time does not mean that bacteria instantly grows at a rapid rate, your refrigeration being above temperature for a SHORT period of time is not dangerous.
Scientifically it has been shown that bacteria on high risk foods rapidly increase when the food is above 5c for periods exceeding 2 hrs, at 4hrs the food should be discarded.
The issue arises when refrigeration is cool but not cold! Eg A prep cabinet running at an average of 8-10c instead of below 5c. Whilst the bacteria won’t grow as quickly as if the food was at room temperature it will grow and at a dangerous rate, and this is where most hospitality operations get caught out.
I see so many refrigeration units that constantly run in the 5-10c zone, it’s scary. And to be honest in a hot kitchen environment it’s often difficult for small refrigeration units that have doors constantly being open and closed, especially with ingredient wells in the top to maintain correct temperature.
If you are only checking your refrigeration twice a day then you are assuming or guessing that the other 99% of the day the temperature is correct.
Aside from correct food safe procedure, ensuring proper refrigeration temperatures can result in improved shelf life of product and general quality of.
Food manufacturers and major suppliers don’t make guesses or assumptions that all their refrigeration temperatures are correct 24/7/365, they use digital technology to ensure it is, and it’s also far more economical to have technology to this and provided accurate records than employ staff to do so.
Using technology to help Chef’s
The ‘IOT’ world (internet of things) has arrived and its now entering the commercial kitchen space. Basically IOT means things that are connected to the internet , and hopefully add value to our lives.
We can now add temperature sensors to all refrigerated storage areas in the kitchen and have those sensors talk to the internet.
We can tell the sensors how often to talk to the internet and when to be alarmed about a set of data. From that we can direct the sensor to do something.
Basically if the sensor see’s that your coolroom is running at a temperature deemed to be too high for too long we can ask it to tell us, in most cases many people, normally via SMS text and or email to a smart phone/pad or computer.
As long as the customer has access to the internet they can see current and past history of temperatures of their entire site at the push of a button form anywhere in the world!
With this information the kitchen manager/chef/food safety supervisor can make a decision on what needs to be done, could be a simple as shut the coolroom door properly , or check the food and perhaps discard.
The sensors collect massive amount of data, basically they are checking your refrigeration temperatures 24/7/365 and then they are storing this data for future access or better still to produce a weekly report as evidence that food storage temperatures are at correct temperatures.
The minimum standard in Hospitality is to collect data samples twice a day , in some health food service sectors it maybe every four hours. If you have a lot of fridges this can be a very costly exercise, time wise, time=money.Why pay staff do do it (that may or may not do it correctly if at all!) when technology can do it for you?
Not only can technology do the task for a fraction of the costs of human labour it does it ‘independently ‘ , ‘accurately’ and with lots of data and evidence that can actually be called a ‘fair sample’ of evidence. Twice a day is nothing, it’s less than 1% of the day the other 99% is unaccounted for !
Back in 2011 the USA’s food safety governing body FDA set about updating and rewriting their food safety legislation and guidelines, it’s taken up until now to for much of it to be finalized and available to read, and there is plenty to read! FDA info here https://www.fda.gov/
The USA take food safety seriously, very seriously and as such really leads Australia in direction and standards.
This you may find unusual for a country that seems all to happy to consume copious amounts of processed fast food crap! But if you go into those stores you will see such things as ‘drinking straws individually wrapped’ , ‘tooth picks individually wrapped’ and in my observations the average Americans hand washing technique and time taken to so is far better than the average Australian. There is an in built culture (or paranoia!) about germs and food safety, just not calories and nutrition!
Part of the reason for strictness in food safety also links back to the massive ‘franchise’ food network in the states, it’s really hard to find a food business that is not part of a chain or group, and some of those chains are in the THOUSANDS not just a few stores! So IF an issue of food safety occurs at one store, and word gets out it’s not that store that is the main problem it’s the damage done to the other 1,000 stores in the chain! The issue can taint all of their brand and reputation and bring a large organisation to their knees for something that may have happened as a once off on the other side of the county…a good example would be chiplote..there is heaps of articles about it this is just one example, https://www.wired.com/2016/01/chipotles-health-crisis-shows-fresh-food-comes-at-a-price/
Bad news sells, the media love to bring businesses down, they have probably fed millions of meals over the years with no hassles at, but that doesn’t sell in media land!
The other issue in the states is shear volume, massive population and massive food producers, some may say to few producers, but when big business runs all the smaller players out of town you end up with super food factories. You might end up with for example one or two factories producing all the burger patties for Mcdonalds for example…IF something goes wrong at that factory with the product because they are supplying to millions of customers each week you are in fact risking millions of people, not just the 100 who ate at store A!
an oldie but a goodie on the subject, America a fast food nation, http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1097.Fast_Food_Nation
So generally as a result the states is pretty strict, as mentioned before even small wares (tong’s spoons etc) used in the industry all have to be passed and rated NSF. Makes sense if you think about it, here in Australia a typical small franchise would look to save $1 on a set of tongs…but not consider quality and safety…now if they were cheaply made tongs with silicone/rubber ends that franchise could easily find themselves with a customer at a store with bits of tong rubber in their salad! The chances of such happening in the states would be much lower as they would only use NSF approved tongs, so they would have been tested for quality and durability to reduce the chance of the same happening. more about NSF here http://www.nsf.org/
So back to the FDA changes.
I haven’t read the entire documents just the basics. But the big shift is what they are aiming for is early prevention rather than reaction. And a lot more proactive on spot inspections where it will be compulsory for all operators to have all their food safety plans and documentation accurate and up to date.
The reading suggests using digital data monitoring and logging of food storage temperatures, and lets be totally honest with ourselves here, WHO does it ACCURATELY , REGULARLY and Honestly? Very few is the answer to that. Secondly whats the point of checking and recording twice a day, its POINTLESS a grade 4 science teacher would fail you if you suggested that checking temperatures for 2 moments of time over 24hrs is sufficient evidence to base a finding on, clearly its not! You may have checked a refrigerator both times of the day and struck it on full defrost cycle, the data from that would suggest you have a serious temperature issue! The real fact is for the other 23.5Hrs of the day your storage may have well in the correct zone.
and old saying ‘ to monitor ones performance, first we must measure the results’
Well I’m not going to attempt to break down all the different types of frying oils/fats (or mediums being the technical term) with exception of Palm and Cotton Seed, this is more about ‘filtering and different types of fryers.
Palm Oil…do a quick google on the harmful environmental issues of Palm Oil…enough said .http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/footprint/agriculture/palm_oil/environmental_impacts/
Cotton seed can’t be much better seeing we damn half of this country and bugger up all the water ways down stream just so we can grow cotton??Aside from that go and pull out a 10 yr+ old fryer from a fish and chip shop that has been using cotton seed oil…the toxic resin/gum that builds up is horrific, cannot be good for you!
Its hard to break this down without going into pages and pages…but Fryers are a major part of many commercial kitchens and business, they cost heaps to run, heaps to purchase and can consume insane amounts of oil, the lack of attention clients give to selecting the fryer for their operation is staggering, the wrong choice could cost them thousands per year.
Years ago all fryers were flat bottom, mainly width was the main performance difference, the burner technology (Gas) was primitive to say the least, round baskets in square/rectangle fryers were normal! Yep that makes sense round shape in square base..no wastage of energy or oil there!
The big change happened with ‘V’ base fryers and also more compact in size to suit the neatly fitting baskets, size/shape is easy to see the performance difference there, but what about the V bottom?
Basically it was worked out that many fried products were crumbed or battered and a lot of that ended up coming off the food and floating in the fryer, but once it cooked these crumbs would fall to the bottom of the fryer and form a layer of crumby/crust gunk! So A) the gas burners had to get the heat through this layer of gunk to get to the oil so wasted energy B) doing so actually just burnt this gunk/waste more and more resulting in ‘dirty’ tasting oil and also causing premature oil failure, (think of an old smoking fryer you may have seen used). This resulted in needing to change the oil more often or sooner than ideally required, which equals BIG $$$ per month per year.
So the ‘V’ base works as it allows the crumbs to fall deep down into the middle of the fryer and down into that big valley. That Valley is MUCH cooler than up higher onto top of the burger sections, so the crumbs don’t cook and burn, resulting in massive oil life increase, in some studies 25-30% more..also the efficiency of the burners being just under the baskets means much faster recover times of the oil temperature.
So ‘v’ these days is the norm for nay place doing volume. Is there a place for flat bottom fryers?
YES! yes you say but what how/why? Chips (not coated plain type) as there is very little waste of plain chips we don’t have that problem caused by crumbs and batter. So we can flat bottom the fryer and it will take up to 25-40% less oil in the tank! So straight away a 40% less oil to purchase, no brainer you say…hmmmn I say not so fast…as I am seeing so much ‘coated’ or ‘treated’ chip product out there these days, and with that a lot of that treatment will fall off in the cook. So its a case by case consideration.
Tube Burners are quite popular as many are priced at the affordable end of the scale. Hopefully the below image shows the difference in types, many tube style fryers incorporate a v also. The down side to tube burners is that they are harder to clean, the manufacturers would say differently but it is a fact.
Where they win is ‘efficiency ‘ of the burners (gas) as the tubes are immersed in the oil they are contacting more of the oil and tend to have a higher performance rate than other burner types, so for items like chips they are a good choice.
The other type of fryer, often not thought of in Australia with exception of a well known chicken franchise, but in the states commonly used in many different business. The short story is faster, moisture cooking especially for boned in chicken pieces. Rather than write too much I found this great explanation video…couldn’t of said it better myself, take notes on the the discussion about the cold zone, and self filtration machines.
Electric or GAS?
Save your homework, go into all the ‘major’ fast food franchise restaurants of the world they use electric, they have have invested huge chunks of time and money into their product/Equipment R&D they haven’t come up with this same answer time and time again by mistake!
Put your hand over the back of a deep fryer (over the flue) and see for your self NO DON’T DO THAT you will get burnt! That’s how hot that wasted air/energy is , and you paid for it if its your fryer! With electricity the elements are in the oil, there is much less energy wasted.
Having said that getting enough power into a kitchen can often be an issue, especially on renovations and expansions, so Gas is often the answer
Thermostat so important! If your fryer isn’t at correct temperature when you drop those baskets of chips you are going to ‘soak’ a lot of oil up into the product, rather than the medium ‘sealing’ the product and frying it, under temp fryers can cost you thousands in oil each year, not to mention a poorly cooked greasy food item! Invest in a fryer that shows you by a light or display of some sort that says it’s reached temperature and its ready to go!
Accuracy of the thermostat is crucial, for the reason above and also to ensure you are not cooking at too high a temperature, to high simply means you risk burning the oil/food, ruining taste and also risking fire! Too high will also reduce the lifespan of your oil.
Filtering at the risk of preaching to the converted this is SO CRUCIAL the more you filter , the better you filter the longer your oil will last and save you thousands of dollars per year, plus the food will taste better.
How to do it and how often? As often as possible especially fryers that have messy products eg S&P calamari, do it after every service, seriously EVERY SHIFT watch your oil life increase and costs decrease.
How? With a filtering machine and proper micro filters, get the best. If you can afford it and you have multiple fryers invest in a self filtering , auto top up system, most of the brands have them, with these you can filter many times per day all day, without staff, so much safer and cheaper, these systems in busy places will often pay for themselves in oil saving within 1-2 years.
An example of one type of auto system is shown here,
Other ways you can increase the life of your oil is to filter your self with a floor based system where you empty the oil into a tank and it filters and pumps back into the fryer. These systems are fine when done after hours and no one is working near the fryers, they do have a fair bit of OHS risk also if the oil is too hot and someone knocks the tube, but they work well and are good base IF they are used regularly.
A combination of the two methods above is a Vito machine, the advantage of such is that it doesn’t take up floor space and can be simply move from one fryer to another, you can also run multiple filters per vat per day.
Here is how they work.
The Inspiration for a fryer topic?
I’m in the position of being able to walk into MANY different kitchens each week, and the common trend these days I see is to have ‘someone sort out your oil for you’ . What a great service and idea, no more storing drums of oil/fat , dealing with disgusting waste oil/fat stores, ordering it’s all managed for the client, the truck comes each week and swaps it all over , its a great improvement for kitchens and chefs for sure, massive as they can spend that time on more important tasks. However with it I have seen a complacency to be aware of oil/costs/use/ and lifespan as it’ now all taken care of by someone else.
If you were to implement some of the above tips, maybe you could extract an extra 2 days out of your oil before it ‘really’ needed to be replaced , rather than this is the day of the week it gets done. Lets say a client implemented just the Vito strategy on 4 fryers after each service and they did extend the oil life, maybe they could be looking at an extra 50-100 days of oil x 4 fryers. Work out how much your organisation spent on oil last year / 365 and that’s your oil cost per day, now take that at x 50 or 100…the maths is compelling.
The thing to keep in mind with the oil /swap/fill service, is that their money is made each time the filling truck comes to you, they are not in the business of extending a customer oil too much otherwise they are cutting their own income off, its like BP showing you a way to increase your cars fuel performance x 25%, its not going to happen!
Operators are keen to cut penalty rates on Sunday’s, increase meal costs to customers, but rarely do they get into the nitty gritty of ‘non obvious running costs’ such as power consumption or in this case oil/fat consumption, I bet everyone could save thousands off their oil costs by filtering properly and often.
Keeping your cool!
Another one in the obvious but clearly not obvious category.
Cool room door strips, Cold Shields. If you don’t have them on your doors you are wasting money.
They were/are designed for a specific purpose that is to keep cold air in and hot air out, and guess what they work! Manufacturers will claim numbers like 25% improvement in temperature controls, which in some cases I would say yes, others less so, all depends on the operating ambient temperatures and or drafts/breezes.
Chef’s hate them as we have to brush through them and if you are carrying a tray of something delicate you can bet that the strips will smack into the goods and ruin them!
But for the inconvenience of having to have someone open the strips for you occasionally, the business is going to be saving thousands of dollars in energy costs, coolroom motors cost a lot to run and if they are working over time even worse, for a few hundred dollars you can save thousands and also give your coolroom a chance of actually working to correct food safe temperatures, they are a non negotiable.
‘If’ a commercial kitchen and or food premises is following the legislation and duty of care that it is required to by LAW, they MUST be checking and recording the temperature of their critical control points, the fundamental basic step in following correct food safety and HACCP principles.
There is NO IF”S or BUT’S about it, you need to be checking the temperature of food storage Coolrooms, refrigeration and freezers. How else do you really know if your perishables are being stored correctly at a safe temperature, not only is this critical for food safety but if your storage temps are not correct your shelf life of your product will be significantly reduced, so food costs get blown out by wastage, and let’s not go down the path of creating a food posioning incident due to bacteria contaminated food, bacteria that was allowed to grow because you weren’t storing at correct temperatures!
WHAT IS IT YOU MUST DO TO COMPLY?
A daily recorded check sheet of all refrigerated storage areas taken at least 4 times per day 7 days a week, these data check lists need to be kept on file also.
Now let’s look at reality:
Who are you going to pay to do this job? How much money in labour is that going to cost your operation?
Also are you sure that your staff are actually noting down the ‘real correct temperatures’ or are they just jotting down numbers to fiddle the books and tick the box’s so to speak!
How are you taking the temperature? The digital (that’s if you have one!) display on the outside of the fridge is NOT ALWAYS THE ACTUAL TEMP OF THAT ROOM or CABINET! That’s right read that again! It’s often measuring the air coming in, and that’s not necessarily the actual temperature of what’s going on with that piece of meat stored at the far end of the room or cabinet! YOU NEED TO HAVE A SEPERATE TEMP PROBE IN THE ROOM/CABINET
Accuracy, not only do we have the human error opportunity of just ‘ticking the box’s ‘ so to speak, what about the device that’s in the Coolrooms/fridge, how accurate is it? Is it calibrated? measured at what % of accuracy? In my experience those that have a separate internal temperature checking system have the most basic cheapest thing they possibly could get their hands on 99% of the time it’s not even digital, actual accuracy is very doubtful at best.
The other issue is , frequency..four times would be probably double what most places I see do this and even if you managed 4 times, what’s going on between hour one and hour six? Or what’s happening in the middle of the night? Your Cool rooms or refrigerated cabinets holding all your valuable perishables could be running over temperature whilst you are soundly asleep and you would have no idea, or no record of it either.
To really monitor temperatures properly the temperatures of the inside of the room/cabinet should really be monitored in smaller instalments of 10-15minutes and recorded at least half hourly.
So let’s assume you are following the above procedure. Let’s look at the costs involved in compliance, assume the following example:
Two Coolrooms, One Freezer, Four prep/service storage cabinets and you are checking four times a day.
7 checks at 2 minutes per check and noting on chart that’s 14 minutes x 4 times per day that’s 56 minutes a day, let’s call that 1 Hr. ! Hr at $35 real wage costs (your not going to entrust the 1st Year Apprentice with this important task!)
Now we need to do 7 days of the week plus we need to collect the data and file it and then set up a fresh set of data sheets, there’s another 15-30 minutes easily, but we won’t even bother with that in the calculation just to keep the point simple.
So $35 x 365 days = $12,775 per year to comply with legislation! That an insane cost, worse in larger establishments.
Even a smaller operation with half this amount of storage you are still looking at approximately $6,350+ per year in lost labour, and you still have an audit system that only accounts for less than 0.5% of 24hrs of your operation, that means you could have systems running over temp 99% of the time potentially. Whilst that is hopefully not likely its pretty safe to say that two quick checks per day does not reflect what your food storage temperatures all day long!
There has to be a better way, and there is! It’s so simple it’s ridiculous!
Set up a wireless digital temperature monitoring system that does it all 24/7 365 days and documents everything on an Internet cloud server for your data filing and better still if one of the Coolrooms or Cabinets breaks down and goes over temperature it will email you and text you an alert so you can go and rescue your stock before its all too late! Which could save you THOUSANDS OF $$$ in lost stock!
The other important fact in rescuing stock if a cool room or refrigerated cabinet goes down and stock is lost, is the LABOUR COST to DO THE PREP WORK AGAIN! Imagine if the function coolroom room goes down with all your meals ready for tomorrows big gig, not only do you lose the value of the stock but the prep needs to be done again! Do you have time? Do you have the staff and that also means paying them twice to the job once!
Over the years I have seen a lot of claims by equipment manufactures that promise all sorts of labour saving claims, reduced energy etc etc and much of it is true to a point. But setting a basic wireless temperature monitoring system for your operation is the simplest and cost effective thing that any foodservice operation could ever do.
These systems also record temperatures as often as every minute if set up as such, but the reality is you would set up for longer intervals then this. We set our systems up to check every five minutes and record every 15. So now we are recoding up to 96 per day, which by all counts is much better than the couple of very rough and quick checks twice a day, three times if your lukcy!
Accuracy, the units are accurate within .2c and can be calibrated. Calibrated means that if the unit was to fall outside of the accuracy zone when check against another 100% (or close as possible to) device the unit can be adjusted to be back on correct accurate readings. The other great feature is if/when the battery in the temperature check unit starts to get low , an alert is raised to remind the operator to replace the battery pretty cool!
Better still if you are really bored you can remotely see all of your fridge/cabinet temperatures with the convenience of an iPhone or iPad APP, any where anytime. You could be out playing golf and be alerted that a fridge has broken down by a message on your phone, the guys back in the kitchen probably haven’t event noticed it yet as they are too busy!
Imagine that phone call back to the kitchen, ‘hey guys pull all of the meat out of the cabinet and transfer to a working unit and call the fridge mechanic to sort it out’ that could be a thousand dollar plus phone call in getting to all that meat before it was too late!
Sounds all high tech, complicated , is it new, never heard of this before.
It’s actually not new technology, I first really got into it around ten years ago, when back then it was new, but massive companies , like Burger King were staring to take up the technology as also many hospital food service operations. But the tech back then was more complicated, not totally reliable and really expensive making it out of the range of everyday establishments.
Fast forward 10 years , like all tech, the bugs have been sorted and the price is a fraction of what it was, it’s now dirt cheap, really cheap like under $1,000 to for a year, for a device monitored 24/7 and automatically doing all your data logging , so there is really no excuse.
In the above labour cost example you could waste $12,775 per year to poorly keep a very dodgy set of paper log files per year that really wouldn’t stand up in court if push every came to shove, OR spend a fraction of that costs to have 96 records per day 365 all recorded electronically PLUS get an alert if and when a cabinet/Coolrooms goes down
That frees up hundreds of hours of labour, saves you thousands in labour costs, and makes you 100% compliant with the part of food safety and HACCP control, so it’s a no brainer really!
The other part about HACCP and food safety compliance is that you need to keep records of the temperature data logged and filed. With this system it’s all held on line on a cloud server and you can look at the graphs any time or export to a PDF document or spread sheet.
So when requested by your local authority for records you can just download what you require and email away, and if your operation ever was subject to a food safety issue you will be easily able to produce all of your temperature monitoring reports quickly easily and with confidence of accuracy.
The added bonus with these types of systems also is analyzing the performance of your refrigeration systems. Most operators have no idea that their systems are not running to temperature, a quick check of the graphs at the end of the week and you can see what issues you may have and set up a course of action.
Refrigeration mechanics love these systems also as they have hours and days of data that they can quickly call upon to help diagnose issues of under performance of the systems. In same cases the data graphs may show that they have long defrost cycles timing with the service times in kitchens, the time when you need your refrigeration working hardest, not on a defrost cycle.
The information provided, the administration time saved and the insurance that you can actually tick off the ‘store food at safe temperature’ part of your food service plan means that thee types of systems will be common place standard in all operations in the future. They all ready are in such places as hospitals and commercial food production and even supermarkets.
It’s really something that you really need to have in place, not one day, NOW!